KGEI Building

Photos by Robb Most

words by Jim Clifford

A blockhouse-shaped building in Redwood Shores that made history in World War II is finally getting the recognition it deserves. Appropriately located on Radio Road, the Art Deco structure housed the transmitter for KGEI, a shortwave radio station established by General Electric Company. During the early years of World War II, KGEI was the only voice from home for GIs fighting in the Pacific. The station’s call letters, emblazoned over the doorway, were covered up decades ago by a church that took over the building, but in early 2020, the letters were restored, and thanks to fundraising efforts by the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, a new history marker was recently installed at the site. In 1942, The New York Times wrote a story headlined “KGEI Tells Them.” Nothing, the newspaper reported, stirred the hearts of soldiers and sailors as much as hearing the introduction to the station’s programs: “This is the United States of America.” Among KGEI’s notable accomplishments, the station broadcast General Douglas MacArthur’s “I Shall Return” speech promising to return with American troops to the Philippines, which had been occupied by Japanese forces since 1942. After the war, General Electric sold the station to the Far East Broadcasting Company, which then sold the transmitter building to a church in 2001. The building is near a section of the Bay Trail frequently used by hikers and bike riders, but KGEI’s transmitter is no more. Far East Broadcasting gave the transmitter to a radio ministry in Liberia where it was destroyed by rebel forces in the late 1990s. Today, the building of about 7,000 square feet is owned by Silicon Valley Clean Water, the wastewater plant operated jointly by Redwood City, San Carlos and Belmont.

Photography: Courtesy miSci, Museum of Innovation and Science